Interview: Kristien Potgieter

In the first of two recent interviews, we were lucky enough to as a few questions of Kristien Potgieter, a writer and editor from Johannesburg, South Africa, who has recently been longlisted for the Sunderland Short Story Award.

Kristien has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, where she was also a UEA Booker Scholar, and she has previously worked as a teacher, tutor and proofreader. She is currently doing a PhD in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

You can find her at:

Twitter – @ballet_bug_

Instagram – @krispotg

Website –

Housekeeping out of the way, and now that you’re back from checking out all of Kristien’s wonderful-ness, let the questions begin!

Tell us a little about yourself: what are some of your favourite books?

Recent favourites include Evening Primrose by Kopano Matlwa (a superb South African writer who is destined for international literary stardom), The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and Lullaby by Leila Slimani – all amazing women writers with vastly different viewpoints.

Essential all-time favourites are Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus, Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood and Co. series, and anything by Eva Ibbotson or Roald Dahl.

What or who are some of your inspirations?

I’ve found that I never know where inspiration is going to come from – even the smallest moment can trigger a good idea, which is why it’s useful to be observant of people and the world in general, and to always be on the lookout for those interesting details that can spark a story. And I always find inspiration in writers that are better than me; there’s nothing more inspiring than being awed by the astonishing wonders that a writer like AS Byatt, for instance, can achieve with language… the kind of thing that’s infinitely more brilliant than anything I could ever come up with. Whenever I feel uninspired and blocked creatively I turn to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic – it always reminds me how essential joy is in the creative process and how to manage my fear. It’s a fantastic book.

What made you apply for the Sunderland Short Story Award?

I try to apply to a few short story competitions every year, as a way of getting my writing out into the world, and one of my previous stories was shortlisted and received a Highly Commended prize in the 2016 Sunderland Short Story Award, so I’ve had a really positive experience with them. I also really love that they have a section for young writers, because encouraging kids’ creativity and their love of writing is absolutely essential.

Have you applied to any short story awards previously?

I apply to short story awards as regularly as I can afford it. It’s helped me get used to the idea of sending my writing into the world and having people react to it, and that in itself feels like an achievement. There can be something really satisfying and encouraging about submitting a story to a contest, even if you don’t end up winning.

How long have you been writing? How would you describe your writing journey so far?

I’ve loved writing since I was a kid, but I’ve only seriously been working on my fiction for the last five years or so. I’ve been really fortunate in that I got to attend a fantastic Master’s programme in Creative Writing (at the University of East Anglia), and I’m now doing a PhD in Creative Writing. Creative Writing programmes aren’t for everyone, but I’ve found them to be extremely nurturing and creatively stimulating, so I’m very grateful for them.

What would being shortlisted or winning the award mean to you?

It would be really encouraging to know that someone else read my work and enjoyed it. Though I’ll always keep writing, regardless of the outcome of writing competitions, being shortlisted for or winning an award is an incredible boost to a writer’s confidence.

Isn’t she wonderful!

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